Wednesday, 20 August 2008
The Celts spread their culture and language across Europe and groups of Celts penetrated Spain in the west as well as Turkey in the east (Galatia).
Beginning around 700 BC, large groups of Celtic peoples began crossing the Pyrenees Mountains from Gaul into the Iberian peninsula. These tribes were moving under the pressure of population expansion, and were looking for new territory with fertile soil and rich pastures. In the beginning, it may be supposed they settled in the lush river valleys of the northern regions, displacing much of the native population. Though these Celts had become pastoral farmers, they brought with them their fierce and warlike heritage.
As more and more newcomers arrived, and the existing Celtic population thrived, they expanded westward and down the coast into the regions known today as Galicia (in northwest Spain) and Portugal to the south. Native populations were subdued and enslaved or driven into the poorer areas of the country, primarily the rocky uplands which were best suited for grazing of sheep and goats. By 400 BC, the Iberian peninsula was predominantly Celtic. Tribe and clan holdings dotted the river valleys and the coasts. Various types of grain were grown on small farming plots, while cattle, pigs and sheep were raised on the open range. There was also time for arts and beauty, as attested to by a number of archaeological treasures unearthed over the years.
Though the Celts themselves have all but vanished from the Iberian peninsula, their heritage and influence is still strong. There are many examples of the old language to be found in some item and place-names. The old Celtiberian language used a variation of the Phoenician alphabet, and appears to have been used mainly by the Druids. The language died out around 100 BC, as a result of Roman pressures. To this day, it has not been fully deciphered.
The universal Celtic love of music and dance lives on in many areas of Galicia. Folk-dances in this region are quite similar to those of Ireland and Scotland. Musical rhythms and melodic patterns also show some interesting similarities. The Celt-Iberians even have a bagpipe which gives a sound near to that of the uillean pipes of Ireland. Each year, Galicia sends representatives to the Pan-Celtic Festival in Lorient, Brittany.
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